Submission of an Op Ed Piece
Although I now live in Olympia, I spent a great deal of time in the North Olympic Peninsula in a previous position and stay in touch. I'm responding to an Op-Ed piece written by Mike McAleer in Friday’s Peninsula Daily News.
Most everyone is concerned about jobs these days. Having lost my job because of the economic recession, I can really understand the need for jobs. But job creation must be tempered with environmental and health issues in the broader community. So if you’re cheering on Nippon Paper’s proposed biomass incinerator, take a deep breath and look closely at the fine print.
To keep the paper plant viable, Nippon wants to build a power plant on the Port Angeles waterfront. All the electricity generated by burning biomass will be sold on the open market – not in Clallam County. All the profits go to Nippon – not the local economy.
The choice: preserving jobs at the mill, but no guarantees of any more, or maintaining the quality of life for Clallam County.
Tourism is very important to Port Angeles—think of all those Canadians coming to visit. If the community were to decide to build a new power plant, would we plop it along the popular Waterfront Trail? Communities have lost tourists because of huge clearcuts on the Peninsula in the past. Smokestacks from biomass plants could mean a big problem in the future.
Although I have worked for better forest protection in the past 25 years, what most scares me about biomass burning is its effects on health. I have asthma and know how frightening it feels to not be able to breath normally. Biomass burning releases particulates so small that they are not limited by current regulations. The American Lung Association opposes biomass burning because they are concerned about increases in asthma, heart disease and the risk of premature deaths. Toxins from these biomass incinerators will be carried everywhere the wind blows.
Huge diesel trucks would be hauling biomass in and trucking waste and ash out from the plant, rumbling along, spewing pollution into the air and adding to the toxins that are washed into the harbor whenever it rains.
Another concern: water. The mill proposes to take more than 3 million gallons of water a day from the Elwha. Imagine: 3 million gallons is more than what’s used by all Port Angeles water customers inside and outside the city.
How will salmon and other fish get the water they need, once the Elwha dams are removed? The mill says it has the water rights. End of story.
Healthy forests cleanse the air, provide wildlife habitat, absorb rainfall and store carbon – all while supporting local jobs.
The number of biomass plants proposed or existing on the Olympic Peninsula leads to the question: sustainable supply? I don't think so. We can no longer afford to look at each biomass plant in isolation when it comes to wood supply or health issues, which is why I now administer a listserve for organizations concerned about wood biomass.
Short term, a small number of jobs. Long term, a real loss for the Citizens of Clallam County. Let's get smart and look at the big picture.
606 Lilly Road NE #115
Olympia, WA 98506